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Devils hope home ice works to their advantage

by Brian Compton

"I guess that's why you play a full year, to get that home-ice advantage. That's why you do it -- for a Game 7. You've got to go out and do it now."
-- Brent Sutter

RALEIGH, N.C. -- After an 82-game regular season, the New Jersey Devils were rewarded with home-ice advantage in, at the very least, the opening round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That could pay huge dividends Tuesday night, when the Devils return home to face the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal at the Prudential Center (7:30 p.m. TSN2, RIS).

New Jersey finds itself in this situation following Sunday's 4-0 loss to the Hurricanes at the RBC Center. The Devils simply could not equal Carolina's desperation and were outmatched from the drop of the puck.

Now, though, they have an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. They've seen the last of the RBC Center until at least October, thanks to their Atlantic Division crown.

"With that third seed, maybe this is the only time we're going to have that chance," said Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who faced 37 shots in Game 6. "You've got to try to take advantage of it. We've been playing well at home. It's a situation that we're in."

New Jersey could have avoided that situation with a win in Carolina Sunday night, but failed to generate much against goalie Cam Ward and a stifling Hurricanes defense, which held the Devils to just four shots in the first period and 28 overall. Instead, though, they must return to "The Rock" for a seventh and deciding game. The Devils have won two of three on home ice in this series.

"I guess that's why you play a full year, to get that home-ice advantage," New Jersey coach Brent Sutter said. "That's why you do it -- for a Game 7. You've got to go out and do it now. We've got 48 hours to get ready to play. Both teams are in the same boat and in the same situation. You've got to think and you've got to expect that it's going to be a great game."

They don't have much time, but the Devils certainly need to find their offense before the puck drops Tuesday night. Even though the teams have split the last two games, New Jersey has scored only once during that span, dating back to a 1-0 win in Game 5 at the Prudential Center. Brodeur was asked to make 44 saves in that victory.

"It's definitely what you work for in the regular season, trying to get home ice for the playoffs," Devils forward Jay Pandolfo said. "It's for times like this, when it comes down to a Game 7. Now we've got to take advantage of it. They showed that they were the desperate team. Now it's going to be that way for both teams next game. The loser of next game is all done, so we have to make sure that we have a better effort."

If they don't, it will be the Devils who go home for the summer. It sure would be a disappointing way for their season to end after having two chances to eliminate the Hurricanes.

"They outplayed us, but we feel really confident about playing against these guys," Brodeur said. "We're not saying that they're too much for us. We feel that we can play well and be dominant, and we've proven it in the games."
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